Paid Leave has a New Supporter: President Obama
Nearly half of U.S. private-sector workers aren’t guaranteed any paid sick days whatsoever. Even under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees some workers 12 weeks to care for a newborn child or severely ill relative, the leave is decidedly unpaid, and many workers are excluded. Employers often offer workers compensation insurance and health insurance, and President Obama is working to make sure that employees who need to take time off of work can do so without risking the financial security of themselves and their families.
The President of the United States will soon be signing a memorandum that will guarantee government employees 6 weeks of paid family leave, regardless of gender, upon the arrival of a new child. This will allow federal workers to spend time with their loved ones at this crucial and life changing time, allowing not only the mother but the father as well to stay home and care for a newly arrived child. While this may sound like a step in the right direction, it’s only a small part of a large movement to bring American families closer together and allow American workers across the nation to take off time when it’s most needed.
Valerie Jarrett, adviser to the White House, was the first to mention these new plans, and in a LinkedIn post urging Congress and state lawmakers to make a change, she wrote, “[The White House] can’t say we stand for family values when so many women in this country have to jeopardize their financial security just to take a few weeks off of work after giving birth. We can’t say we’re for middle-class stability when a man has to sacrifice his economic security to care for his ailing mother.”
This new action adds momentum to Labor Secretary Tom Perez’s ongoing campaign against the lack of paid leave that many American workers suffer from. Calling the United States’ progress “an embarrassment”, Perez compares us to other developed countries to show how far behind we really are.
Obama’s plan to revolutionize sick leave begins with a simple concept – allow federal workers to save up to a week of paid sick leave per year and use that time when it’s needed. This rewards employees for showing up when they’re not completely bedridden or contagious and allows the federal government to give employees paid time off in dire situations without sacrificing any additional worker hours. In addition to being mutually beneficial, this will hopefully create “greater employee loyalty and lower turnover”, in the words of Adviser Jarrett.
Unfortunately, the Healthy Families Act, a new piece of legislation proposed by Obama to address private sector workers, will likely be met with overwhelming opposition. Both the House and the Senate are currently controlled by Republicans who are almost certain to stop this act from passing. While this may prevent the law from being passed, Obama still urges businesses and states to enact such policies and laws on their own, and popular opinion seems to encourage this as well. How this will all turn out is yet to be seen, but we’ll keep you updated as the story develops.
How do you think paid leave can be granted to employees without detracting from the company? What other situations could these new policies be applied to? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!